The past, present and future of Canadian soccer was on show Thursday ahead of a weekend friendly with Jamaica.
And while some disparage — or worse, ignore — the 95th-ranked Canadian men, it was an impressive array of talent.
Former national team captain Paul Stalteri represented the (recent) past. The 39-year-old forward-turned-fullback, the first Canadian to score in the Bundesliga and a veteran of the English Premier League, will be honoured at Saturday’s match at BMO Field for his induction into the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame.
Current skipper Atiba Hutchinson, along with Cardiff City winger Junior Hoilett, represented the present. At 34, Hutchinson is still playing at the highest level — marshalling forces for Turkish champion Besiktas domestically and in the Champions League.
Hutchinson, whose ability to acquire, hold onto and distribute the ball is remarkable, is pure class on and off the field.
Hutchinson ‘best Canadian’ player
“Without doubt, in my mind, the most talented and probably best Canadian player that we’ve produced,” said Stalteri, whose resume is first-rate in its own right.
But it was the future that drew attention Thursday in the form of Alphonso Davies, a 16-year-old soccer free spirit sporting a braces-equipped smile.
The Vancouver Whitecaps teen, who made his Canadian senior debut in June, took the Gold Cup by storm in July when he scored three goals in four games to win the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer and Bright Future award, given to the most promising young player. Davies also made the tournament all-star team.
Davies was born in a refugee camp in Ghana to Liberian parents before moving to Canada at the age of five. Raised in Edmonton, he got his Canadian citizenship in June.
Like the Whitecaps, Canadian officials are attempting to develop Davies’ considerable talents at a comfortable pace while trying to avoid heaping expectations on him.
But their excitement is hard to miss.
“We are looking at a player that could be an iconic player for Canada soccer in the years to come, without a doubt,” said coach Octavio Zambrano.
“The sky’s the limit for him,” added Stalteri, who is an assistant with the senior team and runs the under-17 program. “He’s got immense talent. I saw that when he was 14 years old and in one of our first local camps.”
Zambrano marvels at Davies’…